Ways to Support the Campaign to Protect Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands

When I last posted an update about support for the campaign to save the Portland Bight Protected Area, including Goat Islands, I noted that things remain “hanging in the balance.” Well, they still are. The Jamaican Government remains alarmingly silent on the matter. The Finance Minister recently visited China along with the head of the Port Authority of Jamaica, among others; what happened during that visit? Was anything signed?

Well, I have updated the list that I posted on October 22 of all the organizations (and some influential individuals) that have come out in support of the campaign. They are both at home and abroad, as you can see: in Jamaica, the UK, USA, Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Brazil, Belgium…even Vietnam. Every day, more supporters are joining the campaign. As I noted before, scientists are part of a global network that knows no borders. They continuously support each other, collaborating on field expeditions and programs (such as the Caribbean Birding Trail which includes this protected area). Technology and the Internet has made this all possible – and easy.

If I have made any errors in this list – or have omitted anyone that I should have included – please let me know.

The Save Goat Islands campaign is hugely grateful to all these organizations. Please continue supporting us in every way you can!

  • Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bournemouth, Dorset, UK AND Berkeley, California
  • A Peaceful Planet Facebook page
  • ARKive, Bristol, UK and Washington, DC, USA
  • Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Gainesville, Florida
  • Betty White (“Golden Girls”), Actress and Activist
  • Birds Caribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds)
  • Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
  • Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • Caribbean Birding Trail
  • Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), Jamaica
  • Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Puerto Rico
  • Caribbean Wildlife Alliance, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • Centre for Biological Diversity, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  • Chester Zoo UK
  • Conservation International, Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • Countrystyle Community Tourism Network, Jamaica
  • David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver, Canada
  • Dream Team Divers, Jamaica
  • Earthjustice, San Francisco, California, USA
  • Eco-Index, ℅ Rainforest Alliance, New York, USA
  • Environmental Foundation of Jamaica
  • Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (eLaw), Eugene, Oregon, USA
  • Fans of Animal Rights Facebook page
  • Feel Like a Biologist
  • 51% Coalition: Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment through Equity, Jamaica
  • Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • GoNOMAD Travel, South Deerfield, Massachusetts, USA
  • Greenpeace NZ, New Zealand
  • Herp Alliance, Saint Charles, Illinois, USA
  • Herpeto, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  • Herpetology, Free University of Brussels (VUB), Belgium
  • HuffPost Green
  • I.F.R.O.G.S (Indigenous Forest Research Organization for Global Sustainability), Stuart, Florida, USA (with reps in other countries)
  • Iguana Specialist Group (ISG) – IUCN Red List
  • International Iguana Foundation (IIF), Fort Worth, Texas, USA
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN: International Union for the Conservation of Nature), Cambridge, UK
  • Jamaica Civil Society Coalition
  • Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust
  • Jamaica Environment Trust
  • Jamaicans for Justice
  • Misty Mountain Herbs, Jamaica
  • Mockingbird Hill Hotel, Jamaica
  • National Coalition Jamaica
  • NoMaddz Bongo Music, Jamaica
  • North American Reptile Breeders Conference, California, Illinois, Texas, USA
  • Novataxa: Species New to Science, Hat Yai, Thailand
  • One World Wildlife, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK
  • Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Project Noah (supported by National Geographic)
  • Queensland Ecotourism Authority, Australia
  • Ramsar Convention (the Portland Bight Protected Area is a Ramsar Wetland of Importance)
  • Reptile Hunter
  • Reptile Lovers ACE (Awareness, Conservation & Education)
  • Rock Iguanas Facebook page
  • San Diego Herpetological Society, San Diego, California, USA
  • San Diego Zoo Global, San Diego, California, USA
  • Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife, Jamaica
  • Shawn Heflick, Explorer, Conservation Biologist & Wildlife Expert, Palm Bay, Florida, USA
  • Southern California Herpetological Association & Rescue, Fuller, California, USA
  • The Biodiversity Group, Tucson, Arizona, USA
  • The Biologist Apprentice, Mexico
  • The Jamaica Caves Organisation
  • The Nature Conservancy (worldwide), Arlington, Virginia, USA
  • The Reptile Report, Denver, Colorado, USA
  • The Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, New York, USA
  • Tropical Herping, Quito, Ecuador
  • United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), Grandy, North Carolina, USA
  • Urban Jungles Radio (Danny Mendez), New York, USA
  • Vietnam Herpetology
  • Wildlife Nature: Facebook
  • Windsor Research Centre, Jamaica
  • World Wildlife Fund

Thousands of people from Jamaica and around the world have signed the petition on change.org, here: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-to-port-on-goat-island-jamaica-no-trans-shipping-port-portland-bight-protected-area-jamaica?share_id=eqkTTbjcGd&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition  If you have not signed it yet, please consider doing so and share with anyone who may be interested. It includes many heartfelt comments from supporters, as well as additional articles and information.

Other ways in which you can support the campaign:  

  • Join the Facebook page: No! To Port on Goat Island Jamaica. It is updated daily with news, relevant articles and updates, including links from many of our supporting organizations – and archived information that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. Please also join the Facebook pages of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), the NGO that manages this Protected Area; and of course that of the Jamaica Environment Trust, which spearheads the campaign in Jamaica.
  • Read the new Briefing Paper on the Goat Islands/Portland Bight just posted by the Jamaica Environment Trust on its new website: http://savegoatislands.org, where you can find updates and further information. The link is here: http://savegoatislands.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Goat_Islands_PBPA_Briefing_Paper.pdf
  • Follow @SaveGoatIslands and @jamentrust on Twitter.
  • Become a member of the Jamaica Environment Trust! Volunteer, or make a donation… Visit the JET website at http://www.jamentrust.org for more details.
  • Buy a Save Goat Islands T-shirt – available via the online form in Jamaica (J$1000) or in the U.S. for $15 at this link: https://www.booster.com/savegoatisland. See the Save Goat Islands website for further details.
  • Share the short animated video “Don’t mess with Goat Islands,” created by Jamaicans. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7wAg7y3h2A (It’s very catchy, I warn you!) Lyrics: Inilek Wilmot; Vocals: Quecee; Music: Jeremy Ashbourne. Animation: NivekPro Animations. Well done!
  • Write to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; President/CEO of the Port Authority of Jamaica Professor Gordon Shirley; Dr. Omar Davies, Minister of Transport and Works; and Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Land Water Environment and Climate Change.
  • Write letters to the newspapers: the Jamaica Gleaner (letters@gleanerjm.com) and the Jamaica Observer (editorial@jamaicaobserver.com). If you are overseas, please spread the word online via the media, etc…
  • In case you missed it, please read this statement from Jamaica Environment Trusthttp://www.jamentrust.org/education/media/media-archive/2004-archive/160-statement-from-jet-on-goat-islands.html And here is the statement from the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, which includes JET and many other non-governmental and community-based organizations: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Six-reasons-against-port-on-Goat-Islands_14960085

Please support the campaign to preserve and protect the Portland Bight Protected Area, and Goat Islands! It is Jamaicans’ birthright…

Thank you!

Photo: C-CAM
Photo: C-CAM

Post-Sandy Cheer, Part One: Gastronomic

I know that we city-dwellers (or most of us) have been spoilt. After Hurricane Sandy whisked across the island, tearing up trees and tearing down light poles, we have been the lucky ones (despite our loud complaints that we didn’t get power back the following day…) Now it is a week away, and after our determined attempts to sweep up the yard it now looks reasonably tidy. Garbage and forlorn piles of foliage now fringe Kingston’s roadsides. We are not expecting a garbage truck any time soon. There are only twenty for the entire city, says the government agency. I suppose they weren’t expecting a hurricane? No warnings?

So, my husband whipped up a little something over the weekend, which went down very well. My dear brother and his Australian wife recently gave us a marvelous cookbook, “Bill’s Sydney Food: The Original and Classic Recipe Collection.” I refer you to page 25: Sweet Corn Fritters with Roast Tomato and Bacon. Well, we skipped the bacon, but… for a first attempt, it was pretty darn good. The cookbook also does lunch and dinner recipes too, so we plan to delve further into its yummy depths..

Bill's Sydney Food

The cookbook.

Why Bill’s, you may ask? When we were staying in the great city of Sydney three years ago, in the cozy neighborhood of Darlinghurst, the bohemian-chic little hotel we were staying at referred us there for breakfast. We had just arrived, at six in the morning, after a twelve-hour flight from San Francisco. We were feeling light-headed and slightly crazed after the longest flight we had ever taken, on the largest plane we had ever seen. Bill’s breakfast brought us back down to earth, deliciously. We stuck with Bill’s the day after, and the day after that. The freshness and simplicity of the food, and the cool but light-filled restaurant and pleasant service easily seduced us. We were good for our days of sight-seeing.

More on post-Sandy pleasures in my next post!

Related articles:

http://www.bills.com.au  (Bill’s marvelous website)

http://www.amazon.com/Sydney-Food-Commemorative-Bill-Granger/dp/1741965543 (Bill’s Sydney Food)

Bill's breakfast

Fruits…and the fresh, inhouse-baked fruit muffins are to die for!

Bill's breakfast

A leisurely breakfast at Bill’s with brother, sister-in-law and friend… It has to be leisurely, so you can savor it!

Bill's breakfast

The awesome sight of a Bill’s breakfast.

Sweet Corn Fritters

Sweet Corn Fritters made with all-Jamaican ingredients and accompanied by soursop juice and delicious coffee from Cafe Blue, as experienced in Kingston, Jamaica…

 

One Laptop per Child Reaches Jamaica

petchary:

By coincidence, my fellow-blogger Annie Paul just posted this article about One Laptop Per Child, which I mentioned in my blog just yesterday. I am so happy to hear that it has just arrived in Jamaica. And happy that it is being employed in August Town – a community with a tempestuous history and an uneasy present, which the University of the West Indies has “adopted” as a University Township. And it is good to see that this is coming from that vibrant and beautiful city by the sea, San Francisco… Read and enjoy and thanks for letting us know, Annie!

Originally posted on Active Voice:

 

 

Recently I had a conversation with Sameer Verma of San Francisco State University about an innovative venture he’s involved with — the One Laptop per Child project. Verma, an open source software (OSS) activist, was invited by Professor Evan Duggan, Executive Director of the Mona School of Business and new Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona, whom he went to school with, to spearhead the OLPC project in Jamaica. According to the OLPC Jamaica website:

OLPC Jamaica is a general interest group for the One Laptop per Child initiatives in Jamaica. The group started at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, Jamaica on 5th September, 2008. Compelled by the belief that the OLPC has considerable potential for enhancing the efficient delivery, and improved Pedagogy in early childhood education in Jamaica, OLPC Jamaica intends to foster interest, generate ideas…

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African Postman: Drumming Across Continents

The drum is, of course, the cornerstone of African music, the throbbing heart of it. But the voice of the drum is a universal voice – a call to come together and celebrate, whether it is in Nigeria or Pakistan or Brazil…or Jamaica. As the article below notes, it’s a “mass activity.”  

A couple of years ago, we enjoyed a wonderful day of free opera in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, lazing on the grass in warm sunlight, people watching and shouting “Bravo!” from time to time. As the program drew to a close, I heard another sound – something that seemed to grow from a group of trees in a hollow space some way below the big space where thousands had gathered for the opera. It was insistent, and continuous, and it wanted to be heard. At the end of the concert, we followed that sound, and came across a row of men, of all ages and cultures and colors, sitting on several benches and drumming their hearts out. An appreciative group of men, women and children hovered nearby, most of them moving their feet and shoulders and all of them smiling. We stopped, and listened. The drummers were so absorbed that they did not seem to notice anyone around them, except each other. Drumming had gotten a hold of them. When we left, half an hour later, they were still playing, in their own world, without stopping. (I  am pausing here and searching my iPhotos for my photographic record of these drummers, but can I find them? No! Most disappointing. I will look for them and post them at a later date, as I know they are there somewhere, in the archives…)

Meanwhile, I came across this wonderful article from the equally wonderful New Yorker magazine, which sums up the universality of drumming, and the cross-cultural sharing that African drumming and dancing has brought to the world. It is written by Elif Batuman, a New York-born writer of Turkish origin, who currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey. The city of Istanbul is itself such a crossroads of history, cultures, tribes and traditions, and a city that I would love to visit. Below is the link to this article.

Elif Batuman

Elif Batuman

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/07/african-drumming-in-istanbul.html#ixzz20HMGHGBs

The first time I held an African drum in my hands was at Koç University, in a forest in the northern suburbs of Istanbul. Istanbul is not known, justly, for its highly developed sub-Saharan music scene. But Koç is a remarkable institution, with an ice rink, a celebrity Pilates coach, and a writer-in-residence, so I was only slightly surprised to learn there was also an African dance class with live drummers. One moonlit evening, I met with a colleague, a scholar of migrant narratives, in a faculty parking lot, where we transferred several goatskin drums from someone’s living room to the trunk of someone else’s car, and drove to the west campus annex, in a rolling dystopian valley full of housing developments.

In a studio just off of a multistory parking garage, we met Inci Turan, Istanbul’s first African dance instructor. (In addition to the class at Koç, she teaches twice a week at a recording studio near the city center, where the photographs in this piece were taken.) African dance and drumming are inextricably linked both to each other and to various agricultural and social events, from marriage to wrestling. That night, Inci demonstrated a harvest dance. I had never before seen such flinging of the head and shoulders, abjectly forward and exultantly back. Her outstretched arms were giving, giving, then taking, taking, generous and voracious by turns. Then there were moments of such thoughtfulness, such listening. “Listen to the ground with your right ear,” Inci says during one of the warmup stretches, and she really looks like she’s listening.

Inci currently works with a group of five drummers. Three of them played at my first class. Badji is at least a head taller than the others, with a gentle demeanor and long dreadlocks. Ibrahim is the one who always looks watchful, even angry. For weeks he yelled at me, because I was so bad at African dancing. Stamping his feet, he would dance in place, shouting: “C’est facile! Facile!” Kandioura, who wears sunglasses indoors, comes from a famous family of Guinean balafon players. He loves to play solos. They are hard to dance to. “No solo, Kandioura,” Inci sometimes tells him. “Solo, solo,” he repeats.

African drumming is polyrhythmic: conflicting rhythms are played simultaneously. Skilled dancers can move two, three, or even four parts of their bodies to different rhythms at once. A master drummer is said to be able to “make the djembe talk.” Such speech acts may be figurative or literal. The Yoruba “talking drums” can convey verbal messages over long distances. Ewe drummers are known to hold insult contests, shooting insults back and forth using specially tuned drums.

A good djembe is carved in one piece from a hollowed tree. The body is shaped like a goblet, the membrane made from the skin of a goat or other animal, preferably female. (Male goatskins have a less even texture, and smell more goatlike.) Each is individually tuned, with its own voice and personality, and is said to contain three spirits: the spirit of the tree, the spirit of the goat, and the spirit of the drum-maker. The musicians are very affectionate toward their drums. They speak the word “djembe” with great tenderness.

Djembe carvers

Carving djembe drums in Guinea.

One of my colleagues, a philosophy professor, bought a djembe. It wasn’t cheap, but in the worst case she can use it as an end table. The drummers are giving her lessons. One evening I sat with them under a tree. Lessons often take place outdoors, in remote areas, because of the noise. A cook came out from behind a nearby grilled-intestines counter, his face transfigured by admiration. He told me that he had worked as a sailor for many years, that he had seen wonderful things in Panama, and was in possession of some incredible marijuana that had been excreted by a goat in Kenya. I thought about how different my life would be if I spent more time sitting under trees learning about the djembe.

Inci Turan was born in Düsseldorf. Her father started out as a factory guestworker, studied to become a mechanical engineer, and opened one of the first Turkish schools in Germany. He later left this job, due, Inci believes, to interference by powerful political interests. When Inci tells you a story, it often involves the demonic forces of jealousy and ill will. Turkish has many figures of speech about the evil eye. When I’m with her, I find myself believing them. I want to fix amulets to her body. It’s hard to imagine any unseen dark powers not taking an interest in anyone so special.

After her family returned to Turkey, Inci graduated with honors from the math department of an Istanbul high school. She briefly played professional volleyball, then moved to America, where she studied economics at SUNY Stonybrook and worked as a consultant in New York. She played volleyball every weekend in Central Park, where she was lured one day along an unfamiliar path by the pulse of mysterious drums, as if from some secret nightclub, hidden in broad daylight. She came upon a big circle of African drummers and dancers. For hours she sat and listened to them, beaming, transfigured. She began to pursue the study of African dance all over the city, from the National Black Theatre of Harlem and the Hundred and Thirty-seventh Street Y.M.C.A. to the Djoniba Dance and Drum Centre and a series of Crunch gyms.

Inci was living in Harlem at that time with her boyfriend, Sean, a Haitian-American architectural engineer whom she had met at the Stamford bus station when he was eighteen and she was twenty-eight. (He initially told her he was twenty-four.) At Inci’s urging, Sean tried his hand at African drumming. He ended up just as obsessed as she was, and made two trips to Senegal to study with master drummers. The couple split up in 2005, when Inci returned to Turkey. A year later Sean moved to Istanbul to join her, and they got married. They recently separated, but Sean is still the head drummer in Inci’s group.

Inci Turan of Dans Afrika

German-born Inci Turan, founder of Istanbul’s Dans Afrika, feels the drums.

When Inci first got back to Istanbul, she missed African dance terribly. There weren’t any classes, so she decided to start one herself. She and Sean recruited two more African drummers, from Istanbul’s migrant and refugee community. They ended up helping the drummers with food and rent, so for a long time the classes brought in no profit. One day the Istanbul office of Peppers & Rogers, where Inci had applied for a consulting job, invited her to run an African dance motivation retreat for its employees. The workshop was a hit. Inci and Sean went on to lead motivation and ice-breaking workshops for companies including Novartis, Sanovel, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, H & M, 3M, and Volvo.

At first, I found a certain irony in the image of West African migrants convening at Turkish resort hotels in order to rev up Big Pharma for the next productive quarter. I suppose it’s because consideration of African interests isn’t what global corporations are best known for. But Inci doesn’t see things that way. Because she and Sean started their own careers in the corporate world, and because they made a new, drum-centered life for themselves, as adults and against considerable odds, she feels that they are uniquely qualified to transmit and embody the corporate credo that any target, sales or otherwise, is attainable through hard work and what she calls a “can-do attitude.” African dance, she adds, is a mass activity—a corporate activity. It’s impossible, she says, not to feel inspired by the spectacle of three hundred employees of a catering conglomerate dancing to African rhythms played by a hundred and fifty of their coworkers on an assortment of dunduns, djembes, and Turkish darbuka drums.

The current drummers have been in Istanbul nearly a year now. Kandioura, Ibrahim, and their friend Salif came last year for a Senegalese Day festivity, and never went back. They discovered Badji quite by chance, selling knockoff watches on the street. For months after their arrival, the drummers lived in Sean’s apartment. Inci still pays for their shoes and dental bills, and books their shows. The group, which calls itself Dans Afrika, performs every week or two, at diverse venues. I once heard them play a 3:30 A.M. slot at an electronic club called Clinic to a large, mostly Senegalese audience. Inci just booked them for the Efes Pilsen One Love Festival, alongside such groups as the Kaiser Chiefs and Yuck. Business still isn’t as good as she would like. Inci has often made the rounds of sports clubs, offering to teach African dance for free, and been told that there isn’t any customer demand. “Of course there’s no customer demand,” she says. “How can they demand it if they don’t know what it is?”

When I was growing up, many of my relatives had never seen a black person before. Today, hundreds, maybe thousands of Africans live in Istanbul’s old city alone. It’s hard to imagine their lives in their human totality. Walking around with the drummers, I’m often surprised by the jovial attitude people seem to take towards them—as if to convey appreciation of some terrific joke the Africans have played on us all, just by existing. One afternoon, when Badji got into the front seat of a taxi, dreadlocks spilling out from his bulging knit cap, the driver’s face immediately lit up. “What’s this, man?” he demanded with mock sternness. “What’s all this?” Badji shrugged and smiled, as if to say: “It’s my earthly form, bro.” Badji once spent two years on Jeju Island in South Korea, playing the djembe at the African Museum. He says there’s a lot of respect for African culture on Jeju Island. Ibrahim often tells me I should come to Senegal, to see how the people live. “You will cry,” he says, repeatedly. “You will cry!” he shouts, indicating with a calloused finger the course of a tear down his face. Ibrahim doesn’t know about the classical rhetoric of persuasion. He has taught me a few words in Wolof. “Yes” sounds like wow.” Talking on the phone, Wolof speakers sound perpetually amazed.

Dans Afrika

Dans Afrika

Although I have developed great fondness for African dancing, one of my favorite moments comes just after the end of class. The drummers pack up their djembes in quilted cases. Kandioura puts on his sunglasses. Sean wanders around with no shirt, carrying heavy objects. Inci comes out of the dressing room looking radiant in a sundress. One by one, everyone heads downstairs, each in his or her own particular fashion. The corporate glow lingers overhead, like a giant sun, then sinks below the horizon. Inci has phone calls to make, a can-do attitude to keep up. The drummers have to get to Beyazit, to do whatever they do there. The studio is on a steep cobbled street, running from the Bosphorus to the city center. We start walking up the hill together, but by the time we get to the top, everyone is headed their separate ways.

Cool Art

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein looking super-cool

We escaped San Francisco‘s heat wave (lasted three days, and everyone complained)…and escaped one day into the cool, dark grey marble atrium of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  We relieved ourselves of shopping bags, rested awhile, and then visited…

“75 Years of Looking Forward: The Anniversary Show” – described as “works from SFMOMA‘s collection that tell the story of the artists, collectors, cultural visionaries, and community leaders who founded and built the museum.”

Mr. Petchary stood beside a vast Mark Rothko (Number 14, 1960) – two blurred expanses of a kind of crimson and a kind of deep blue.  He looked solemn (don’t worry, photos will eventually follow).  This is from Mr. Rothko’s “late period” (he refused to be categorized as an abstract painter by the way).   Mr. Rothko was born into a Russian Jewish family, and emigrated to the United States.  New York proved fertile ground, as it so often does.

Jeff Koons‘ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” was a disturbingly beautiful confection of gleaming white and gold.  MJ leans back on one hand, cradling his pet chimpanzee on his lap.  Both have luscious, gilded curly hair, large dark eyes and red lips.  They sit among scattered gilt flowers.  The effect is that of a horse or other creature on a carousel.  Strange indeed.

Other works that caught the Petchary’s eye…

Several by the “Bay Area Abstract Expressionists” – bright, and shouting.

“Tracking Down Guiltless Doves” by Arshile Gorky (1939).  The Petchary has discovered a new artist she really loves…Rothko was born in Russia, Gorky in Armenia.  A number of his paintings were destroyed in a plane crash… This small painting has a white background, with flighty shapes like the doves, and a central eye trying to keep them in order.  Delightful and I must investigate him some more…

“Les Valeurs Personelles” by Rene Magritte.  What you would expect from the famous surrealist.  A room with blue sky and clouds for walls, a large hair comb tilted over a bed, a pencil, a wardrobe with reflecting glass.  The emotional chill of Magritte’s paintings fascinates the Petchary.  The coldness of a small European country.  A lonely feeling.

“Bathers” by David Park.  A couple of others by this artist the Petchary really liked.  He was a member of the Bay Area Figurative School apparently.  The painting was of three young, golden-brown men who had all just emerged from the water it seemed, one nude.  It had a great feeling of life.  Mr. Park believed that a work of art should be “more wonderful” than the artist.  The Petchary thinks so, too.

“Woman in Profile” by Richard Diebenkorn.  There was a palm tree in this painting, which the artist obligingly painted out when it was apparently not wanted.  The still, somewhat expectant pose of the woman arrests the senses.  Diebenkorn was a fellow-member of the above-mentioned Bay Area School.  Park moved from Boston to San Francisco; Diebenkorn moved from Oregon.  Can’t blame them.

“Incision” by Jay DeFeo (1958).  A terrible eruption of “oil and string,” like a dirty, frozen waterfall.  Mr. Petchary described this one as “absolute rubbish.”  Ms. DeFeo was one of the “Beat Generation” and a Berkeley habitue (although again, born on the East coast).  One of her most well-known works weighed 2,300 pounds.  Whew.

“Self Portrait” by Andy Warhol.  Well, we all know Andy, and no surprises here.  Two fingers raised artfully to his lips.  Andy once said, “I think everyone should like everyone.”  (Did he?)

“Collection” by Robert Rauschenberg (1954).  There was a lot of Rauschenberg (perhaps rather too much), but this was an interesting one: thickly pasted layers of paint, newspaper and comic strips.  RR, who died two years ago, was sometimes called a “neo Dadaist” along with Jasper Johns, with whom he reportedly had an affair while still married – but soon divorced.  A little gossip there.  He said he liked “surprise” in art, and he certainly sprang a few.

“Rouen Cathedral Set” by Roy Lichtenstein.  Taken from Monet’s wonderful painting, this gives it a completely new dimension – light, ethereal, delicious colors.  It’s a three-panel set.  Loved it!

Possibly the Petchary’s absolute favorite was “Two Ways to Organize” by Leslie Shows.  Above, a cataclysm of fiery red, shooting sparks, dark clouds like doom-laden fireworks.  Below, striated rocks slip downwards into an abyss – how deep?  Storms and earthquakes…It is made with acrylic, mud, charcoal, rust and collage.  Amazing!  She grew up in Alaska, and it shows…She is the only artist in the above listed faves that is still alive (born in 1977, lives and works in San Francisco)…and the only woman artist too!  Check out her fantastic website at leslieshows.com.

Last but not at all the least are the two works specially commissioned for SFMOMA’s atrium, by African American artist Kerry James Marshall, called “Visible Means of Support.”  One side depicts Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello; the other George Washington’s residence, Mount Vernon.  The murals show these historical landmarks (the Petchary has visited both) – and note that the slaves owned by the Founding Fathers always seem to be “out of the picture.”  As you look at the paintings, you start to see them in the trees, in a pond, in “join the dots” portrayals.  Marshall was born in Alabama in 1955 but grew up in Los Angeles.  He taught art at the University of Illinois in Chicago for many years – this mural opened just a few weeks after the inauguration of the United States’ first multi-racial president.  It makes one really think…

If you go to San Francisco, please don’t pass by the SFMOMA’s comparatively low-key entrance without venturing inside.  The more time you spend there, the more enriched you will become.

Poor Jamaica

Scientific studies on climate helped establish...

Image via Wikipedia

The Petchary is desperately sad and anxious about Jamaica. As she looks at the weather map, she sees a huge, sinister, deep orange cloud over the island. It is not moving, it seems to turn on itself. I fear for Jamaica. You are all in my thoughts. It is strange to be away and to read this news and see photos and videos of rivers and places I barely recognize – distorted, swollen, broken. Global warming is upon us. Much love to you from sunny, cool San Francisco. See you soon, I hope (even the Petchary’s office is closed tomorrow…) LOVE.

The East in the West

Zhang Huan

Zhang Huan's Three Heads Six Arms at San Francisco's Civic Center

A tour of San Francisco neighborhoods conducted by our dear friend Kathy began with the extraordinary sculpture “Three Heads, Six Arms” by the Chinese artist Zhang Huan.  This huge copper statue (26 feet high and weighing close to fifteen tons) rests in front of the city’s Civic Center, where it will remain until next year, in commemoration of thirty years of sisterhood between the cities of San Francisco and Shanghai.

For all its weight and girth, the sculpture appears to rest lightly in front of City Hall, gleaming golden-brown in the sunlight – just an elbow here, a hand there touching the concrete.  As you approach it, the head of a Buddha tilts at an angle towards you, smiling gently.  As you draw nearer, the two human heads come into view – one, with strong lean features, is actually a self-portrait by the artist, while the other is a broad, contemplative face that could be Tibetan.

Zhang was actually inspired to create this piece as one of a series, when he discovered religious sculptures that had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in a Tibetan market.  The artist was born in 1965, just before this time of destruction, in a small town in Henan Province.  The sculpture is, in essence, composed of such fragments of Buddhist iconography, with his own emotions, his own spirit, fused into them.  Zhang says that while his sculpture embodies his own Chinese tradition, “it is also about our common humanity.”

The Petchary sensed this as she gazed up at the half-closed eyes of the artist-face, and stroked the knuckles of the hand resting on the ground, warmed by the morning sun.  The tranquility and benevolence of the piece seemed to embrace everyone who stood near it and examined it from every angle.  Tourists posed for their photograph, leaning on a finger.  A young couple pointed upwards at the faces, holding each other close.  Children ducked underneath an elbow, stretching up to reach it.  It is approachable, it is warm, it welcomes you.  It wants to be touched.

Zhang began training as an artist at age fourteen, attending classes in the “Soviet style.”  In 1984 he took undergraduate classes at Henan University in Chinese ink painting, drawing, oil painting and art history.  He then studied oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he started experimenting with performance art.

Now performance art seems a different, very introspective and personal domain, which displays itself in public as if to say, “Here I am; you can take it or leave it.”  Or, “Here is this idea; I don’t care whether you agree or not.”  Zhang joined a group of young artists calling themselves the “Beijing East Village.”  He attracted attention with two pieces.  In one, called “Twelve Square Meters,” Zhang sat for an hour, covered in honey and fish oil, in a fly-infested public latrine.  In another, “To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain,” nine people lay on top of each other to raise the summit by a meter.

In 1998, Zhang relocated to New York City after he was featured in an exhibition of new Chinese art.  He created thirteen performances and exhibited in five solo exhibitions as well as many other group shows in the United States over the next eight years.  Then he moved back to China in 2005.

Zhang now lives in Shanghai, where he has opened the Zhang Huan Studio and has established the Gao An Foundation, which helps fund school buildings in under-developed regions of Western China and has established scholarships for university students.  The statue that now gracefully embraces the frontage of the white-columned City Hall was created in Zhang’s copper workshop, one of nine specialized workshops in his studio complex in Shanghai.

May this bridge of strong arms and shining faces, stretching from East to West, continue to foster the spirit of tolerance and appreciation – which is so much a part of what San Francisco is about.

Ansel Adams…and Jazz

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (19...

Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (19...

The Monterey Museum of Art is in two places.  First, a compact neat building on Pacific Street, which we came across by chance one evening.  As we stepped in the door, the rise and fall of loud conversations and the scent of wine greeted us.  A well-proportioned waiter thrust a tray towards us: “Guacamole prawns?”  We were surprised, but understood this was the museum’s monthly “art after hours” get-together – a great idea to bring more people in.

The second location:  The museum at La Mirada is in a garden, fragrant with dried bark and pine and dried leaves.  There were drooping pink lilies and bright-colored heathers.  A small pond was hidden behind sturdy bulrushes.  The building is a modern adobe, with small courtyards, tiled walls and tall, light-filled windows.  Parts of the building – living rooms furnished with muted colors and modest antiques – are about one hundred years old.

We were one of the few visitors viewing the exhibit of seventy photographs by San Francisco native – and determined environmental activistAnsel Adams.  Among the striking images (Moon and Half Dome, clearing storms over mountains, Mount McKinley and the shining Wonder Lake), there were also some sly perceptive portraits, including one of Georgia O’Keefe and a companion in delightful hats.  There were also several exquisitely detailed photographs of dogwood flowers, fern, leaves… And outside the museum, a rose garden, still fragrant despite the chilly grey of the morning.

Much anticipation as we arrived at the Monterey Jazz Festival that evening.  It all started with the Ben Flocks Quartet.  Ben was a dark-eyed, curly-haired, earnest young man with a deep love of jazz, a native of Santa Cruz.  He recalled visiting the Festival as a child, when his love of jazz, and the masters of jazz, grew (he opened with a Charles Lloyd piece, recalling he heard Lloyd play at Monterey and was inspired).  Interestingly, he also cited the young saxophonist Joshua Redman as a major influence.  It was a family affair – his parents and friends were there – and he felt so honored.  He played the saxophone with verve and feeling.

Jazz Mafia was nothing short of stunning.  A dynamic group of mostly young musicians – a blonde girl in a trilby played violin, a man in a flat cap played a dashing trumpet – crowded onto the stage, at least twenty of them, and threw themselves into Brass, Bows and Beats, a one-hour composition by their enthusiastic leader, who at intervals grabbed his trombone and blew.  From time to time, a group of four singers, warm and expressive, came on stage.  They were joined at intervals by three rappers – a plump and pretty young woman with a mobile face; a young and preppy-looking man in an open shirt and blazer, whose vocalizing was the most hard-hitting, and a very intense, excitable rapper called Seneca.  The joyful noise they made was irresistible, full of delicious surprises.  The audience leapt to its feet spontaneously at intervals.  Jazz Mafia play all kinds of brass, guitars, bass, lots of drums, strings…and samplers and turntables.  What an exciting blend.

Then on to Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge, fronted by two women – Mary Fettig on soprano saxophone and flute, and Claudia Villela, who sang with skill and flair and flicked her short sequin dress around the stage.  Ms. Fettig, by contrast, an accomplished and delightful musician, stood quietly at the microphone and played with a slight, conspiratorial smile on her face.  With her neatly permed hair and conservative dress, she had the air of a contented housewife.  The band played the music of Mocair Santos, a little-known Brazilian composer.

Then…time to leave, after a brief but not very inspiring stop at the Indo-Pak Coalition, a multicultural trio.

Opera in the Park: Another Excerpt from Petchary’s Travel Journal

Sharon Arts Studio, Golden Gate Park, San Fran...

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Free at Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco…September 12, 2010.

After some confusion over bus routes, we found our way to the familiar, raucous, untidy Haight and across the grass towards the towering pines of Golden Gate Park.  It was wonderful to see that skyline again…The huddled groups of hippies were still there, their bags and their blankets and their dogs spread around them on the grass.

A little further on we found a different kind of gathering, dotted with food booths, portable toilets, a bicycle park, several white tents, bunches of balloons – and, at one end of course, the stage, complete with a row of marigolds in pots.  In the space within, San Franciscans of every age and hue and persuasion lounged on quilts and blankets and bath towels.  Some opera-goers were highly organized, with ranges of pots of different sizes containing hummus and salad and cold meats.  Champagne, wine and other beverages flowed.  Others, less organized, like ourselves, squelched into Italian sausages with onions and relishes, and got in a mess.  The Petchary’s husband downed a bottle of nice Californian Merlot, and was helped along by our neighbor, Nancy from Chico – a pretty fortyish lady with a charming smile.  She retired behind a black lacy shawl draped over her head to keep out the sun.  Our rather noisy neighbors on the other side were celebrating their second wedding anniversary, ate and drank steadily through the performance and became more and more horizontal.  Two gay couples just below us on the slope were horizontal from the start, draping their long pale limbs on a huge blanket.  They all had identical short, prickly haircuts.  A chic Chinese family arrived – two daughters in long summer frocks and big hats.  And beyond them, a sea (some 15,000) of wide brimmed hats and headwear of all kinds, spilling down to the stage, blowing bubbles, waving their arms and shouting “Bravo!”

OUR FAVORITE PIECES:

  • La luce langue” from Verdi’s “Macbeth” sung by Dolora Zajick
  • “Nemico della patria” from Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier” sung by Marco Vratogna
  • “Pourquoi me reveiller?” from Massenet’s “Werther” sung by Ramon Vargas – so lush and romantic
  • Overture from “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini
  • “La donna e mobile” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” sund by David Lomeli
  • All the glorious Puccini, but especially “Bimba, dagliocchi pieni” from “Madama Butterfly” – the richly emotional voice of Leah Crocetto moved the Petchary to tears…And Luca Pisaroni’s bass baritone was remarkably beautiful.

A beautiful day.

Arrival

USGS Satellite photo of the San Francisco Bay ...

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Miami to San Francisco, five and a half hours.

The plane droned on westwards and northwards, bumped gently from time to time.  A child behind us was disturbing, with its cries of “Oh no, no, no!” (what were his parents doing to him?)  In the deep black below us, occasional clusters, strings of glittering orange light, appeared from time to time.  At last, much larger collections of lights, in patterns and shapes appeared – a ballpark, perhaps, a freeway – and a long bridge across the bay.  The blackness became water, not land, and we were in the Bay area.  The plane fluttered down over the city, and as we touched down the dark hump of Alcatraz Island was outlined against the city’s brightness.  We  arrived!